How To Grow and Care for Succulents Indoors

top view of echeveria plant - how to grow and care for succulents indoors

When you typically think about indoor plants, you envision bouquets of flowers and spending a lot of time keeping your indoor plants happy and healthy.

That doesn’t have to be the case. People often underestimate the power of keeping succulents in their homes. A humble potted cactus can provide as much satisfaction as can be found in living indoors with demanding tropical plants.

Succulents are plants with fleshy, thickened leaves or stems filled with water. They can survive with very little water, making them tolerant of drought. There are many different species and cultivars of succulents across several plant families.

Growing succulents indoors is relatively easy when you follow the proper procedures. They also make for sturdy houseplants.  There are a few basic requirements to meet to keep the succulent healthy and happy. 

Select Suitable Succulents

Not all succulents do well indoors. Select a succulent that prefers shade or low light, as they’re more suited to an indoor garden.

Succulents with bright colors generally prefer more sunlight than is available indoors. Start with succulents that are naturally green, such as Haworthia and Gasteria varieties.

Plant in the Correct Container

Succulents don’t like to be waterlogged. The container you choose must have enough holes to drain all excess water relatively quickly.

Glass containers are not a good idea, as they don’t allow the water to drain and lack breathability. Succulents need good airflow through the soil to grow healthy roots.

If you absolutely want to use a particular glass container, a careful and sparing watering technique can still keep your plant healthy. 

Use Appropriate Soil

Succulents need soil that drains well. Use specific cactus soil or potting soil mixed with sand, pumice, or perlite. These plants only need a light fertilizer feeding during the spring and summer growing seasons. Use a diluted, water-soluble, all-purpose fertilizer.

Overfeeding will result in a growth spurt, leaving your succulent weak. The roots of succulents are incredibly fragile, so take care when repotting these plants.

Ensure Enough Light

succulents in pots by large window - how to grow and care for succulents indoors

Succulents love light and require six or more hours of bright, indirect sunlight a day. Place the plants near a window that gets sunlight all day or near the best-lit window available.

Newly planted succulents can burn if placed in direct sunlight. A sheer curtain can provide sufficient shade during an introduction to full-sun exposure.

Rotate your succulents often to ensure that all sides receive enough sun exposure. Rotation also prevents the plant from leaning to one side.

Water Sparingly

The biggest killer of indoor succulents is overwatering. Daily watering of indoor succulents is the fastest way to kill them.

To water the succulent, soak the soil until the water starts to run out of the drainage holes. Use less water if your container doesn’t contain drainage holes. 

Another technique is to place the plants’ pots in a bit of water and allow the water to absorb through the drainage holes. Remove the plant from the water and allow any excess to drain once the top of the soil is moist.

Allow the soil to dry out completely and water again after a few days.

A spray bottle should never be used to water your succulents. Misting causes brittle roots and moldy leaves. Water droplets left on the leaves of succulents turn into little magnifying glasses in the sun, and small holes will burn into your plant.

Dormant Periods

Succulents need more energy during the period of growth during the spring and summer. The plants drink up much more water than when resting in the fall and winter.

The lower leaves of succulents do shrivel up and die. It doesn’t mean the plant needs more water. If the newest or uppermost leaves on your succulent are shriveling up, you might be under-watering.

Keep Succulents Clean

Indoor succulents will eventually gather dust on their leaves and stems, which can slow their growth significantly. Wipe the leaves and spines gently using a damp cloth or soft paintbrush.

Watch for Bug Infestations

A succulent is more likely to get pest infestations indoors than outdoors. Overwatering and overfertilizing may lead to gnats and mealybug infestations.

Mealybugs drink the juices from their host plant, lay hundreds of eggs, and cause damage to your plant over time. Examine plants regularly to make sure they’re free of gnats or mealy bugs. To get rid of eggs and larvae, spray the plant and soil with a solution of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.

The Easy Choice in Houseplants

Growing these undemanding plants is easy and rewarding. Succulents make great indoor plants, well adapted as they are to survive dry conditions, such as the dry interior air homes have in winter. Where other plants might wither, these can thrive for years to come.

Feature image: Wendy van Zyl; Image 1: Stefano Photography

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